Recently, a prototype of Australian berdesigner Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge chair sold for over $1 million US. At last year’s Furniture Fair in Milan, an unprecedented number of designers – including Marcel Wanders and Maarten Baas – held their own exhibits of limited-edition design pieces, each selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Design is now commonplace in auction houses around the world. Seeing where this was all going three years ago, Craig Robbins (owner of the Miami Design District), along with his professional and personal partner, Ambra Medda, launched Design Miami. The exhibition complements the 20-plus art fairs running alongside the monolithic Art Basel Miami in December, by offering contemporary art collectors an opportunity to scoop up the hottest in limited-edition design pieces – while also providing designers and architects an opportunity to explore their artistic side. And situated in a city where bling is king, price tags of upward of tens of thousands of dollars don’t scare off buyers.
Design Miami is situated in the Miami Design District’s Moore Building, home to a permanent colossal and breathtaking installation, by starchitect Zaha Hadid, stretching across the width of the building.
There are 26 international galleries that participate, offering prototype or limited-edition design. About a dozen satellite exhibits and performances talks complement this. Following are some of the highlights of Miami’s design extravaganza.
Known for his reinterpretation of mundane materials (glass, plastics, fabric and paper) into magical objects and spaces, Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka was selected as Design Miami’s 2007 Designer of the Year. Inspired by Miami’s wind and sun, Yoshioka created Tornado, an installation made from two million straws. The installation created a windswept background for some of Yoshioka’s iconic pieces, including the Honey Pop chair, made of 120 layers of paper and resembling a paper accordion.
Tail light chandelier
Up until now, lighting design superstar Moritz Waldemeyer has primarily been known for his collaborative work. With Zaha Hadid, Waldemeyer created the interactive Z-Island Corian Kitchen. For the Swarovski Crystal Palace series, he created the Lolita Chandelier with Ron Arad and Voyage Chandelier with Yves Bhar. For provocative fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, he has created both mechanical and video dresses. At Design Miami, British “guerilla gallerist” Libby Sellers showed Waldemeyer’s own work for the first time. By Royal Appointment is a high-backed, throne-like chair made from Corian, which has a sensor on the reverse side that reads the colour of the clothing of the person sitting in the chair. Using LED lighting, it then projects the colour onto the wall behind, creating a regal aura.
Courtesy Gallery Libby Sellers; photograph by Luke Hayes
MonoformsBritish architect David Adjaye’s sensuous approach to materials and architecture is reflected in the Monoforms series, shown by London’s Albion Gallery. Adjaye’s first-ever furniture project consists of individual pieces that can also be grouped together. Each hand-polished piece is named for a region of the world that has provided Adjaye with his inspiration – such as (shown, from top) Giza, Galilee and Petra.
Libby Sellers also commissions designers for pop-up design/art exhibitions around the world. As in the mythologies of the Philosophers’ Stone, her Grandmateria exhibit elevates the ordinary by using humble materials out of context. “It is about giving banal and overlooked objects new significance” says Sellers. Stuart Haygarth, famous for his chandeliers made from found materials, made use of car tail lights for this creation.
Courtesy Gallery Libby Sellers; photograph by Luke Hayes Robber Baron
New York’s Moss Gallery once again presented a collection with Antwerp, Belgium-based artist/ designer duo Studio Job, entitled Robber Baron: Tales of Power, Corruption, Art and Industry Cast in Bronze. Like a cathedral’s detailed stained glass window, each of the five pieces tells its own layered tale. The Mantel Clock features gilded oil barrels atop a model of the Florentine Galleria degli Uffizi; the dial of the clock – circled by a futile railway running endless circles on a rocky landscape – was inspired by London’s Big Ben. Far away, high above the clouds, sits a dream house.
Recognized for energizing design – such as the truly breathtaking Pandora chandelier designed for Swarovski last year – FredriksonStallard presented the Pyrenees sofa with London’s David Gill Galleries. A foam block is hand-sculpted, subjected to a highly specialized flocking process, and then made all the more sensational in such colours as shocking pink and deep moss green.
British art collector and curator wunderkind Kenny Schachter of London’s ROVE Gallery is known for his collaborations with major designers
and architects like Arik Levy and Zaha Hadid. This time, he showed the latter’s Belu bench – another example of the organic, sensuous,
flowing shapes for which Hadid is so notorious. While a limited edition of 11 pieces had been previously shown in grey, Design Miami saw the only edition in existence in white (for $220,000 US).
Courtesy Kenny Schachter/Rove, London Design Miami satellite exhibits challenged traditional ways of approaching design. So did a series of design performances and demonstrations, some of which even required audience participation.
The Corning Museum of Glass (located in Corning,
N. Y.) joined creative forces with the Vitra Museum to create GlassLab. During this live experience, leading designers worked with glassmakers, who demonstrated the efficiency of using glassmaking to rapidly prototype ideas. Participating designers included Brazil’s Campana Brothers (known for their provocative furniture for Edra) and French designer Matali Crasset, as well as Sigga Heimis,
German art director Mike Meire created Utopia Kitchen for German faucet and fittings manufacturer Dornbracht Edges. First shown in Milan in 2006, Meire’s farmer kitchen is a response to the minimal kitchen trend. It demonstrates that life is found everywhere you look – from the living herbs and lemon tree, to the fresh-baked pies and farm animals living right in the kitchen.
Fragiles, curated by German publisher Die Gestalten Verlag, presented over 100
ceramic and glass pieces that challenge classic materials by introducing new techniques, whether experimental and avant-garde or retro-inspired reinterpretations. Participating designers ranged from the established, such as Marcel Wanders and Arne Quinze, to the emerging, including Megan Bogonovich and Charles Krafft.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was initiated by Nicholas Negroponte as a way of increasing literacy among the two billion children in developing countries with little or no access to education. Designed by Yves Bhar and Fuseproject, the playful XO laptop features such mechanisms as a manual lettuce-spinner style recharger, negating the need for electrical charging. Design retailer Luminaire hosted Artists for One Laptop Per Child, where eight of the most important contemporary artists today – among them John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman and lafur Elasson – created a piece of art inspired by XO. Each piece was auctioned on line with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the OLPC project. Baldessari’s Cloud Series: Blue Skies Smiling at Me (with Black Clouds) shows that “the XO laptop will provide entry from communication blackout to worldwide communication.”
Design Miami Performances included Better Than You Remember, where emerging New York-based designer Jason Miller engaged a hypnotist to help visitors recall furniture from their past to use as models for his future design. In Hardcore Softness, Mexican industrial designer Tanya Aguiniga transformed industrial metal folding chairs into works of art by hand-wrapping them in felt.
Dutch designer Wieki Somers demonstrated a live construction of her Bath Boat. As Long as it Lasts, by Vancouverborn designer/artist Tobias Wong, was the ultimate performance, in which art, design and body merged – Wong presented a tattoo parlour, where visitors could select from a number of designer tattoos by some of the world’s biggest designers, including Yves Bhar, Tord Boontje and Hella Jongerius.